Thursday, June 09, 2016

On Being, Doing and 'Compromise'

What's Next for Senator Sanders' Revolution? Here's My Suggestion

In one way, what Sanders and Clinton will be doing is common at the end of spirited nomination battles. . . . Leading Democrats say that this time is different and potentially more difficult.

For one, Sanders operates outside the Democratic Party structure. He has run in Vermont as an independent and self-described democratic socialist. And although he caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, his ties to the institutional party are decidedly looser than were Clinton’s.

Even more important, however, is that his candidacy . . . generated great enthusiasm and spawned a powerful grass-roots movement made up of independents and others who do not identify with the Democratic establishment.

-- Philip Rucker and Dan Balz, "Next for Democrats: A Delicate Dance to Broker Peace Between Clinton, Sanders," Wasington Post (online), June 8, 2016.

For Sanders, as his remarkable White House bid runs out of next stops, the only question is when. Just as important for Sanders is how to keep his campaign alive in some form, by converting his newfound political currency into policies to change the Democratic Party, the Senate or even the country itself, on issues including income inequality and campaign finance reform. . . .

Clinton told The Associated Press in an interview, "I think it's time that we move forward and unite the party and determine how we are going to defeat Donald Trump, which is our highest and most pressing challenge right now." . . .

Sanders ended his final California rally with three simple words — "The struggle continues" — but his brief address in a Santa Monica airport hangar felt at times like a valedictory as he thanked supporters for "being part of the political revolution."

-- Erica Werner and Josh Lederman, "Sanders Under Pressure to Quit as Democrats Look to Unite," Associated Press, June 8, 2016.

"Being" and "Doing"
In 1960, fresh-faced in my early twenties, I arrived in Berkeley, California, to begin my career as a law professor at Boalt Hall, the University of California's College of Law. It was only two years of judicial clerkships after having been a law student. The offer had come from the Boalt Hall Dean, Bill Prosser -- a colorful torts guru, formerly only known to me as the author of my torts textbook.

I was so inexperienced, naive, and curious that I once simply asked Dean Prosser straight out, "What is it that law school deans actually do?"

He smiled and replied, "Nick, it is the job of the dean to do those things that even the janitor refuses to do."

His reply has stuck with me over the years as colleagues at Iowa, and friends elsewhere, have expressed interest in applying for law school or other deanships. Recalling that a department head has been described as "a mouse training to be a rat," I ask them, "Now tell me, is it that you really want to do what it is deans do, or is it just that you've always wanted to be a dean." When they reply, "I've just always kind of wanted to be a dean," I say, "Very well then; go and be a dean, but my guess is that in two or three years you'll decide you'd really rather do what it is professors do" -- as often later proves to be the case.

Being and Doing in Politics

And what applies to teachers and professors aspiring to be educational administrators goes ten-fold for politicians seeking ever "higher" public office. They may talk a good game regarding what they will do for their constituents once elected. It may all be disingenuous, or may be partially sincere, if naive. But for many, it's not what they want to do. The enormous effort and sacrifice that goes into campaigning is largely, even if not exclusively, an ego-driven desire to be -- a congressperson, senator, or president of the United States.

Clearly, Hillary Clinton has been a legitimate policy wonk -- from her early days on the board of Marian Wright Edelman's Childrens Defense Fund through her unsuccessful efforts with health care reform during her husband's presidency. (Ms. Edelman was later enraged by the harm to children from the Clintons' "welfare reform" efforts. Her husband, Peter Edelman, resigned his White House job over it.) And although her speeches now focus on Trump's less endearing qualities, as the Democrats' earlier presidential primaries moved on she certainly weaved into her stump speeches some of Bernie Sanders' substantive talking points, either in whole or in part.

But equally clearly, Clinton, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Party's Establishment, so-called "superdelegates," and their own major donors, have from the beginning of this year's presidential campaign devoted their efforts to what they wanted Hillary Clinton to be -- namely, president of the United States -- rather than what they wanted her to do. (That is, aside from some Wall Street backers who declared themselves to be quite comfortable with what she would do on their behalf). After all, some 400 superdelegates endorsed Clinton before the primaries even began. Their futures and fortunes depend upon a perpetuation of Establishment control. It's probably fair to assume she has wanted to be president since at least 2000, when she ran, and won, a Senate seat from New York -- if not decades before. At a minimum, since she actually ran for president in 2008, we know what she wants to be goes back at least eight years.

Compromise Requires Shared Values and Experience

Those who want to be elected officials, and the campaign advisers and staff who live to experience the excitement of helping them win, have much in common with each other. They know for every winner there's at least one loser. If they want to run again, or work again -- as most do -- they know that, regardless of how vicious the rhetoric the day before, once the winner is obvious it's time to make amends and fall in line.

Shared experience binds those in many professions, up to and including the military. Most military personnel support the Geneva Conventions -- a sort of "Golden Rule of War." They know what it's like to be a soldier, regardless of whose side you're fighting for. Perhaps one of the most dramatic proofs occurred during World War I. David Mikkelson, "Christmas Truce,"
During World War I, in the winter of 1914, on the battlefields of Flanders, one of the most unusual events in all of human history took place. The Germans had been in a fierce battle with the British and French. Both sides were dug in, . . ..

All of a sudden, German troops began to put small Christmas trees, lit with candles, outside of their trenches. Then, they began to sing songs. Across the way, in the "no man's land" between them, came songs from the British and French troops. [T]he Germans . . . were able to speak good enough English to propose a "Christmas" truce. . . .

A spontaneous truce resulted. Soldiers left their trenches, meeting in the middle to shake hands. [T]hey exchanged gifts. Chocolate cake, cognac, postcards, newspapers, tobacco. In a few places, along the trenches, soldiers exchanged rifles for soccer balls and began to play games.

It didn't last forever. In fact, some of the generals didn't like it at all . . .. After all, they were in a war. Soldiers eventually did resume shooting at each other. But . . . for a few precious moments there was peace on earth good will toward men.
Similarly, those who focus on "being in politics" can ultimately come together. Like James Carville and Mary Matalin, they can sometimes even literally intermarry across party lines. At a minimum, within one's party, so long as the winner is within the circle of reason, all party members can reasonably be expected to fall in line for the good of the party and support the winner. (Donald Trump is an example; he is so far beyond the borders of that circle of reason that even members of the Republican Establishment find it necessary to disassociate themselves from him, or at least criticize his actions and remarks.)

The Difficulties of Compromise Between Those Want to Be and Those Who Want to Do

The problem now, for those searching for compromise between Senator Sanders and the Democratic Party Establishment is that it's like trying to find a compromise between rabbits and alligators, bicycles and cruise ships, Iowa summers and snow.

He's just not that kind of politician. Of course, whatever he thought of his chances when he informally declared on April 30, 2015, he could not have been unmindful, as his number of pledged delegates increased along with the size of his crowds, that he might actually win the nomination. But this was not something he and Jane had spent their lives working toward. It was neither the goal of his life nor the centerpiece of his campaign. His was a campaign about doing, not about being. Indeed, he would reject his crowds' chants of "Bernie! Bernie!", from the beginning of the campaign through his Santa Monica rally two nights ago, by telling them that it is they, not just he, who are "part of the political revolution."

Sanders' campaign was just the latest in a lifetime of doing and saying, blending the analysis from his brain with the warmth in his heart, that government can, and should, focus on the needs of the least of us. He was, and is, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist. He has been advocating the same things over the past 30 years as he was talking about for the last 13 months. His core beliefs, his consistency, authenticity and caring, his desire to build a revolution that could change our government and improve our lives, was not only at the center of his appeal to the millions in his campaign, it is what has made him the single U.S. senator with the highest approval rating from his constituents -- 83%. He had the highest positives among all the candidates. (Clinton and Trump had the highest negative ratings.) He got the largest crowds, the greatest enthusiasm. He was the favorite, not only among the young, first time voters, but those under 45 years of age -- the people any party needs to build its long term growth.

Put aside the Democratic Party's mistakes -- with Party membership down to 29% of the voters, it needs someone who can attract the independents, new voters (and even Republicans) it often excludes from its primaries. It needs someone who is viewed as a genuine advocate by the poor, working poor, working class, and trade union members -- once the Party's natural, winning constituency. It needs to be able to project the prospect of real change, rather than perpetuation of Establishment control, to the millions involved with the Tea Party, Occupy Movement, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders' campaigns. Everything the Party's leaders do to trivialize, ridicule, and reject Sanders' campaign and proposals, cutting back on opportunities for debates, treating him as a spoiler, putting roadblocks in his way, urging him to abandon his campaign, only drives home the message that the Democratic Party not only does not really care about the less fortunate, it affirmatively rejects those who do.

Why Bernie Cannot, Should Not, and Need Not "Endorse" Hillary -- But Can Still Help Elect Her

While conventional politicians can turn on a dime and start endorsing the opponents they've spent a primary season excoriating, those who are leading "revolutions" cannot. For Bernie to now "endorse" Hillary Clinton -- the poster grownup embodying all he finds objectionable in a politics favoring the rich -- would be the end of his revolution. It would be like Dr. Martin Luther King finishing a speaking tour opposing the Viet Nam War, and then announcing he had just accepted a job as spokesperson for a major defense contractor.

Moreover, whatever Senator Sanders does or doesn't say or do about Hillary Clinton's campaign is not likely to have much impact on his "revolutionaries." Some will end up writing in his name. Some will vote Green, Libertarian -- or even Trump (the Washington Post reports 9% will do so; others report as high as 20%, and 44% in West Virginia). Some will leave their ballot's presidential choice blank. Some will stay home. Some will formally resign from the Democratic Party. And some will end up voting for Hillary Clinton.

Sanders should certainly be permitted to actively participate in the D.C. Primary, June 14. He should be permitted to continue making the case to superdelegates, to and throughout the Democratic National Convention, July 25-28, that if they really want to beat Donald Trump -- more than they want to perpetuate the Democratic Party Establishment from which they feed -- they might want to consider the poll results showing how much stronger a candidate he is against Trump than Clinton.

Does this mean he should continue to criticize Clinton by name, even after she has actually, in fact, been nominated by the Convention? Of course not; nor need he do so. What he can do, indeed has already indicated he will do and has begun to do, is to help her cause by campaigning against Trump -- while continuing to spread his lifelong message, and falling short of doing anything reasonably considered an "endorsement" of a candidate who represents much of what he's been fighting against throughout his life. A significant "detail" in this connection is what happens to Sanders' lists of supporters (the email list) and donors. To simply turn them over to the Clinton campaign would also, legitimately, be seen as a betrayal of a movement challenging much of what the Democratic Party Establishment stands for and does. Perhaps a compromise, if one is thought to be needed, could be an "opt-in" email to supporters -- a sort of, "If you wish to remain on the Bernie Sanders list, and not have your name shared with the Clinton campaign, do nothing. If you wish to have your name and information shared with the Clinton campaign, click here. If you wish to be removed from the Bernie Sanders list click here."

That's the best win-win-win that occurs to me -- for Clinton, Sanders, and the followers of both. That doesn't force him to appear a turncoat to his followers -- thereby reducing further any influence he might otherwise have with them -- while assisting Clinton by beating on Trump. It holds his revolution as together as possible following his failure to win the nomination -- its emailing lists and crowd funding network -- enabling his and his followers' ability to affect the election of progressive candidates and lobby Congress (and the White House) following the election.

# # #


Tom C said...

Great thought, Nick. So Bernie just stops his campaign for nomination against HC, pivots, and turns his fire toward Trump, while continuing to say the same thing he has been saying for 40+ years. Anti-climactic, but true to all our hearts.

Sam Osborne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam Osborne said...

Our nation has become a land in which those of established privilege BE and the masses of others DO the dirty work and heavy lifting for little or nothing. Those in power BE sitting on their fat and fancy asses in high halls that echo to the favored tune of the political-economic-media establishment as vassals DO the groveling and grubbing licking them fine folks boots in hopes some of those fine folks might take a bit of a shine to ‘em and flip them something more than the bird. I think the whole damn thing is for the birds and I hope Bernie runs Green and messes the whole damn thing up. Of course I guess we can all stick to our knitting---in fact, where will you be when we need you most, Madame Defarge?

Tom Slockett said...

As the full court press is rolled out to unify behind Hillary Clinton, I must confess I am alarmed and depressed that for the first time in the 48 years I've been able to vote, the Democratic Party has embraced a pro war-of-choice-not-necessity Presidential candidate in favor of regime change and neocon wars without end in the Middle East. Additionally, she voted for the Iraq war based on lies. And we know they were widely believed to be lies as I saw you and Mary on the Pentecrest in solidarity with millions around the world who demonstrated and participated in candlelight vigils against, at that time, the upcoming vote by Congress.

As voters in this democracy we are therefor responsible for the ensuing 1.3 - 2 million deaths of men, women, and children, mostly civillians. This result from these wars against impoverished countries in that region, where nearly half the population are children, is documented by the Nobel Prize winning Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in the definitive report entitled "Bodycount". We are responsible for this result because we elected the Congress that launched them.

The following are sincere and serious questions: How can Democrats and those who oppose wars of choice not necessity--and deep in their hearts seek peace--gloss over this change in our Party and our Presidential candidate? How, in good conscience, can we support a candidate who has supported--and even championed--all of these neocon wars, has criticized President Obama for not being hawkish enough, and according to Major and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard who served in Iraq and sits on the House Armed Services Committee, has signaled the intention of continuing regime change and more wars of choice in the future?